John O’Keefe, Fellow of the Royal Society, FMedSci
Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience
Sainsbury Wellcome Centre
University College London
Three generations of Brigid Bourke’s family from the US, UK and Eire converged on Breaffy National School in June 2017 to commemorate the sound foundation with which the school had equipped her before her migration at age 16 to the United States. My sister, Linda Skelly, and I were deeply moved to see the detailed records organised and retained on our mother’s attendance at the School. I am sure that my mother’s ability to question received truths, and determination to take the long view, contributed to my formation as a scientist. I had the good fortune to spend a memorable day at this praiseworthy School. I took part in three memorable sessions, in this school so ably led by George Moran. First, I worked with the students, discussing the research on the brain for which I was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology in 2014. They demonstrated lively interest, posing intelligent questions. In the second session, the teaching staff and I explored how the cognitive map theory illuminated links between brain and behaviour. Their probing comments ranged across basic scientific research, clinical applications, the structure of language and music. The third session was a superb concert by the choir. They sang songs from the National Children’s Choir programme which they had performed in both the Breaffy Arena and the National Concert Hall. I note the close links between the School and the local community and am mindful of the cooperation between Kevin and Margaret Bourke and George Moran in facilitating this event.